Turkey to grant citizenship to Syrian refugee who saved lives after deadly earthquake

Turkey to grant citizenship to Syrian refugee who saved lives after deadly earthquake
Syrian student Mahmoud al-Osman 'showed us that humanity is a universal language', Turkey's interior minister said.
3 min read
28 January, 2020
Mahmoud al-Osman's family is still in war-torn Idlib [Anadolu]
Turkey will grant citizenship to a Syrian refugee and his family after the man saved the lives of a couple following a deadly earthquake in the country's east last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

Mahmoud al-Osman, a 22-year-old chemical engineering student, has been hailed for rescuing Durdane and Zulkuf Aydin from the rubble of their home after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey's Elazig province on Friday.

The magnitude-6.8 quake had its epicentre in the lakeside town of Sivrice, but tremors could be felt in neighbouring Syria and Georgia - and even as far away as Israel. 

More than 1,600 people were injured and 41 killed, according to Turkey's disaster relief agency.

Osman told local media he was in the gym at the time of the earthquake. After leaving the building, the Syrian student heard voices coming from the rubble of a nearby collapsed building.

"Thank God, Mahmoud's efforts with God's will enabled our friend to extricate my wife and then me from the rubble," Zulkuf Aydin told reporters. "God bless him."

"He is a Syrian - he is studying here but his family is not here. They are in Idlib, so I feel a different kind of sadness for him. I don't know what to say," Aydin added.

Both Osman and his family will be given Turkish citizenship, President Erdogan told reporters during a visit to Algeria on Monday.

The student was also praised by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who said Osman had "fulfilled his duty to humanity".

"Mahmoud showed us that humanity is a universal language," Soylu said during a visit to the earthquake-struck province.

Osman joins the ranks of several other refugees and migrants to be granted citizenship by host countries after partaking in dramatic rescue efforts in recent years.

Malian Mamoudou Gassama was granted French citizenship in 2018 after climbing four stories to save a four-year-old boy hanging from a balcony in Paris, after which he was dubbed the "Spider-Man of Paris".

Three migrant fisherman - two Egyptians and an Albanian - were given Greek citizenship earlier this month after rescuing dozens of people during a deadly wildfire last year.

At least 90 people were killed when the fire engulfed parts of the Attica peninsula near Athens.

Similarly, an undocumented Senegalese migrant who climbed a building to save a disabled man from a burning building in Denia, Spain, last month was given residency in recognition of his "act of courage".

Nearly 90,000 people had signed a petition deeming him a "model citizen". 

While such incidents have garnered praise for the refugees and migrants involved, Western governments have faced scrutiny from critics who say migrants and asylum seekers are only deemed worthy of recognition if they have partaken in heroic acts.

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